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Our Church Life in the Face of COVID-19 (2): Pursuing the Word During the Lockdown Period

Manila, Philippines
March 31, 2020

Ephesians 5:15-18 tells us: “Look therefore carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in spirit.” This is such a timely word for all of us as the whole world adjusts to the new order and restrictive living arrangements with lockdowns imposed here and in other countries because of the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. While our phones and gadgets are busily abuzz with more, mostly bad news about the seemingly inescapable pandemic which continue to rattle the hearts and minds of people everywhere, as His people we can remain steadfast and unshaken because we can walk as wise by understanding what the will of the Lord is. We realize that the gist of the problems is not outside, but inside of man (Mark 7:15; Prov. 4:23).

With the onset of an enhanced quarantine, bored people just idle away at home, going about purposelessly. As opposed to the unwise, we believers need to realize that because the days are evil, it is the best opportunity for us to redeem our time. We redeem our time by understanding what the will of the Lord is, by getting into the Scriptures and the word of the ministry.

Pursuing the Word During the Time of Home Quarantine

To understand what the will of the Lord is, we need to know His word. Our God is a God of revelation (Deut. 29:29), and He reveals Himself through His speaking (Heb. 1:1). God does not want to remain a mystery. He revealed Himself, His good pleasure, His intention, His will, His plan, and His desire through the written word. On the side of God there is no problem, but on the side of man, there should be a willingness, readiness and eagerness to receive His speaking (Acts 17:11). The unbelievers walk foolishly on earth in the vanity of their mind (Eph. 4:17) since they are ignorant of God’s will, because they do not know God’s word. Sadly, even we believers can be short of the Word that God has already given to us, primarily because we neglect it. May our eyes be opened to see how great a privilege it is for us to receive God’s speaking. As Brother Witness Lee exhorted us:

“To redeem the time means to grasp every opportunity, and the way to redeem the time is to not make any casual telephone calls, to not gossip, and to not waste time. Instead, we should save all our time to learn the truth.”

(Truth, Life, the Church, and the Gospel—The Four Great Pillars in the Lord’s Recovery, Chapter 5)

The Word of Truth Becoming Our Solid Foundation

The Lord’s recovery is a recovery of the truths in the Scriptures that were lost through the ages. Throughout history, the degradation in the church was always due to a deviation from the Word, because God’s people had little, incomplete, or no knowledge of the word of God. We praise the Lord that in the churches today, we not only have the open Word, but also the interpreted Word. Overwhelmed by their inability to live life the way they are used to or want to, the worldly people are blown in different directions by every alarming news. We, however, can continue living in peace and joy armed with conviction and faith, because we have the Word as our anchor and anvil during these trying times to fully supply our needs and the needs of others around us. The Word constituted into us becomes our solid foundation:

“The brothers and sisters who are willing to read all the Life-study messages and to study every word of the Recovery Version of the New Testament will have a solid foundation. This inexhaustible treasure will be within them for their whole life.”

(Three Crucial Matters for the Increase and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 14)

Being Infused and Saturated with the Living Word

The Word is God breathing into us (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. (Psa. 119:105). It is living and operative (Heb. 4:12), and can be implanted into us (James 1:21-22). As we hear the Lord’s words and do them, we are like a man who builds his house upon the rock (Matt. 7:24). During times of apostasy and tribulations, we can hold forth the word of life (Phil. 2:16), as it is operative in those who take it by faith (1 Thes. 2:13). The Word strengthens us (Psa. 119:28) and destroys His enemy (2 Thes. 2:8).

Colossians 3:16a tells us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, in all wisdom.” This means that the Bible is not a mere book, but a living Person. The Word is living and personified. The more we get into the written word, the more we will have Christ as the living Word. The more we enjoy and experience Christ as the living Word, the more we realize our need to get into the written word. As we are constituted with the truths in the written word, the logos can become the rhema, the written word can become the living Word operating in us.

Hence, despite the constraining challenges and adversities of our environment, by being constituted with the Word, we can remain focused on God’s intention and goal because by it we know His undeterred will and unchanging plan. God made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, that unto the economy of the fullness of the times, He will head up all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10). God desires that the all-inclusive and all-extensive Christ may not just be certain things to us, but that He becomes all things to us, in order that we may know Him subjectively, be infused, saturated and permeated with Him, so that He can replace every element of our natural life and culture with Himself. As we are stripped of the trappings of self-indulgence, we may henceforth live Christ for the building up of the Body of Christ and the producing of the one New Man on the earth today. Let us refuse to live a life of vanity, and pursue the word of God not just for our own need, but with a vision of God’s purpose in us to issue in the corporate New Man.

Pursuing the Word During the Time of Home Quarantine

We thank the Lord for giving us this 30-day period of home quarantine, wherein we can spend more time with the Lord in His word. In pursuing God’s word, we cannot afford to be lazy, passive, indifferent and improvident. In our exercise of getting into the Word during this time, we need to be focused and practical in our pursuit.

First, we need to make a resolution. Getting into the truth involves a decision. God does not force man. No one can do it for us. Let us put off the passivity and worldly distractions that have derailed our plans of pursuing the Word in the past. Let us make a resolution before the Lord for this lockdown period, like how Brother Lee taught us:

“We need to make a resolution to learn the truth. We should not say, “It is useless to make a resolution.”… The Lord who is living in us will help us. Everything depends on whether we are willing to learn… At my present age I am still alert and sharp without any confusion because I have the words of the Lord in me all the time; His words in me are everything to me. I have joy whenever I read the Bible. Reading the Bible is good medicine for healing. The Lord’s word is the factor of our happiness. If we speak the Lord’s word every day, we will be healthy.

It is even more necessary for the older brothers and sisters to learn the truth. If we know the truth, we can teach our children and grandchildren, and when they live with us, our conduct and behavior will be proper. If the tongue of a grandfather is the pen of a ready writer (Psa. 45:1) and that home is filled with a scholarly atmosphere, the children and grandchildren who are living together will benefit greatly even if they have little contact with the grandfather. Similarly, the most basic requirement for all the brothers and sisters in the church to manifest their function is to learn and know the truth. Without an education in the truth it is difficult for us to develop or manifest our function. This is the problem in today’s Christianity, and it is also a big lack among us.”

(Three Crucial Matters for the Increase and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 14)

Second, after we make a resolution, we need to have a plan and consecrate ourselves and our time to this plan. Complete something during this time — it can be the whole New Testament, or a Life-study book, or particular ministry publications. With much time in our hands these days, we can set higher, but still achievable goals. Commit our desire to the Lord, and He will be the one to empower us to do it in Him (Phil. 4:13).

Third, we need to be structured and diligent in pursuing the Word. Daniel 11:32b tells us, “But the people who know their God will show strength and take action.” Start today, not tomorrow. Everyday ask the Lord for that little power to keep His word (Rev. 3:8), to sustain us onward in our pursuit.

Fourth, it is also helpful to find companions to pursue with. The Apostle Paul exhorted us to pursue together with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22). Oftentimes, it is hard to pursue alone, so companionship in pursuing the Word can help us become consistent. We can encourage one another, and minister the riches we have enjoyed from the Scriptures or the ministry publications to one another. Even if our companions may be far from us, it is convenient for us to pursue the Word with them using various technology platforms.

Fifth, we need to be desperate in pursuing the Word. Brother Lee noted from Joshua 10:

“Joshua once extended a day by commanding the sun to stand still (Josh. 10:12-13). The way to “make the sun stand still” is to treat one day as if it were a month. Do not finish only one day’s work in one day. You have to finish thirty days’ work in a day. In this way you will spend one year as if it were thirty years. You have to endeavor, strive, struggle, and labor in seeking after the Lord, in reading the Bible, in loving the Lord, in praying, in praising, and in everything.

How much do you pursue after the Lord? If you say not much or not enough, you are not very wise. The smartest young person is the one who always treats one day as if it were thirty. I mean what I am saying. Do not waste an hour or a minute within the seven years of your teens, especially in loving the Lord and seeking after Him.

You have probably heard of Watchman Nee. When he was young, he made up his mind to read the New Testament fifty-two times in one year, that is, once a week continually for a year. Eventually, he became a living New Testament. This means that he treated one of his days as many days and one year as many years. I give you this example so that you can follow it to do the same thing. This will never waste your time. Even going to exercise is not a waste of time. You should budget your time, your energy, and even your breathing. If you do this, you will not miss anything in the spiritual realm, in the spiritual kingdom. You will get what you should get.”

(Treasuring the Teenage Years for the Lord, Chapter 1, Section 1)

Commending the Saints to the Word of His Grace

The word of God is so important during this period, not just for us, but also for the people around us, and in our virtual gatherings. During this period, may we all (1) Fight for our daily portion of Christ by getting into the Word in a structured way, (2) Minister the riches of Christ from the Word to the people around us, (3) Fight for our church life, by not abandoning our meetings, and (3) Like Abraham fighting for Lot, fight for the weak and dormant saints through our practice of organic shepherding to nourish them with the Word that we are equipped with.

We commend the dear saints and churches to God and the word of His grace, which can build us up and give us an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32). May this period of community quarantine not be wasted for any of us. Let us all come out of this lockdown period complete, fully equipped unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:17) by diligently pursuing and being constituted with the word of God.

(A word of fellowship from the co-workers in the Philippines)